This isn’t the first would-be GIF-killer. Another format, called the GFY (short for GIF Format Yoker) proposed an alternative that would be smaller and more compatible with different devices and browsers. When Twitter launched Vine in 2013, Buzzfeed’s Matt Buchanan named it “the future of the animated GIF,” noting that “the GIF feels, to many, like an exhausted medium.”
But why? After all, the endlessly flexible, evolvable GIF is like the currency of the social Web. But one of the GIF’s most charming quirks — it’s lo-fi, retro Web origins — is also its downfall. The files are big, and the graphic quality is often really, really bad. Plus, GIFs aren’t supported everywhere — you still can’t post them to Facebook, for instance.
Vines, on the other hand, can go anywhere tweets can. And while WebMs aren’t as widely supported, they do promise “superior image quality, support for more than 256 colors, and reduced file size” vis-a-vis the GIF. Despite these much-touted benefits, however, a scroll through any blog or Twitter feed turns up far more GIFs than Vines — and certainly more GIFs than GFYs. Don’t even start with animated PNGs, an image format invented to replace the GIF … in the mid-90s.
That doesn’t bode well for the WebM, though we can still hope. After all, its adoption would — if nothing else! — conclusively end the GIF vs. JIF debate. Not that WebM is super-pronounceable either. Web-ems? Web-ums? Hm.